USS Wasp arrives in Philippines for annual 'Balikatan' military exercises

An Australian contingent will reportedly join US and Philippine troops for this year's drills

USS Wasp (LHD-1)

USS Wasp (LHD-1) (Wikimedia Commons photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- The USS Wasp, an amphibious assault ship and helicopter carrier, arrived in Subic Bay, Philippines on Saturday, March 30 in preparation for a joint military exercise with forces from the Philippines and Australia.

Exercise Balikatan is an annual exercise in April that typically lasts 10 days. The exercise, with drills planned for Palawan and Luzon, will include U.S. Marines from the fourth Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force.

“Balikatan” is a Tagalog word that means “shoulder to shoulder.” The exercises, which include live-fire drills, are intended to strengthen communication and interoperability between forces and to assist Philippine forces with training for counterterrorism operations.

The commanding officer of the USS Wasp Captain Colby Howard was quoted in a DVIDS press release.

“We are excited to visit the Philippines for the first time since Wasp was forward deployed to 7th Fleet. Balikatan is a great opportunity for the Navy, Marine Corps team and our allies from the Republic of the Philippines to learn from one another, and further improve our ability operate together.”

This year will reportedly be the first Balikatan exercise to incorporate the F-35 Lighting II aircraft, capable of vertical take-off and landing aboard the compact USS Wasp carrier.

There will reportedly be a delegation of observers from ASEAN member countries participating in an International Observers Program, intended to “promote greater defense cooperation” with U.S. allies and partners in the region, reports DVIDS.

F-35 aircraft on the USS Wasp flight deck (Wikimedia Commons photo)